Even his synagogue, Beth Israel in Miami Beach, couldn't provide any method to message Moskowitz. In the past decade, he has donated nearly $50,000 to the temple. But on a recent Friday afternoon, more than a dozen Jews streaming inside for the early Sabbath service say they either haven't seen him in years — or ever. "Irving Moskowitz?" says one stooped and balding man who declines to offer his name. "Never heard of him. Must not be religious, 'cause he never comes here."

Across the street at Temple Beth Sholom, Rabbi Gary Glickstein, energetic and affable, ponders the name over a steamed latte. "Really, Irving Moskowitz is a mystery," says Glickstein, one of the most prominent Jews in the city. "I've never seen him in Miami, and I've never seen him in Israel. I don't know anyone who knows him, and I've been a rabbi here for 27 years."

Once, you could spot him walking his Doberman pinscher along the roads of Miami Beach, says close family friend Gloria Bierman. Or you might glimpse him sitting outside his wife's Lincoln Road Judaica shop, the Carefully Chosen, on a Saturday night. But in the past 13 years, he hasn't given one interview and has restricted how often he's in public.

Irving Moskowitz, 85, hasn't been seen publicly in years, but his influence reverberates across Israel.
Wikimedia Commons / Mazel123
Irving Moskowitz, 85, hasn't been seen publicly in years, but his influence reverberates across Israel.
The Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem once housed a Muslim spiritual leader in Jerusalem. Moskowitz bought it in 1985 and tore it down earlier this year.
Wikimedia Commons
The Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem once housed a Muslim spiritual leader in Jerusalem. Moskowitz bought it in 1985 and tore it down earlier this year.

Part of this reticence is born of fear, says Bierman, who once owned an art gallery (also named the Carefully Chosen) with Cherna Moskowitz in the Design District. "You can't be naive and think [donating like the Moskowitzes] isn't a dangerous thing," Bierman says. "It's a very dangerous thing to do."

But Irving Moskowitz's disappearance also reflects that today, the element that carried him from the slums of Milwaukee to worldwide notoriety — his intellect — is gone. "Irving will be the longest-lived Alzheimer's victim of all time," brother-in-law Aaron Shovers says. "The mistake he made was he didn't think about shooting a bullet into his head when he could have done it. He's suffered for 20 years, and now he's just a plant in the corner."

While he's deteriorated, Moskowitz, whose foundation today has $47 million, remains influential on both sides of the ocean. In 2012, he plunged $1 million into Karl Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads. And his son David, one of eight Moskowitz children, manages the gambling operations in California, every year sinking millions more into the foundation — likely ensuring Moskowitz's mission to secure Israel won't die with him.

In Israel, the issue of settlements continues to roil the country. Although President Obama said last week that Palestine "deserved" a unified state, there's little chance of that. Excluding East Jerusalem, more than 360,000 Jews now live in the West Bank; 30,000 were added in 2012 alone. Jewish settlers control 42 percent of all territory in the West Bank, according to a 2010 B'Tselem study, though they've built on only 1 percent of the land.

Even with the recent and surprising rise of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, which captured 19 Knesset seats in January's national elections, there's consensus among analysts that relations with Palestine won't change.

Settlement growth has transformed the Palestinian national movement. Dimitri Diliani, the scruffy Palestinian activist who protested against Moskowitz and the destruction of the Shepherd Hotel years ago, says a day will soon arrive when Palestine abandons its call for a two-state solution. Rather than pushing independence — it'll demand equity. "We want civil rights," he says.

But while Palestine writhes under occupation, far away on a recent morning, all was quiet at Irving Moskowitz's mansion. Inside, a group of friends had just arrived for a visit. Irving, now 85, sat in the courtyard enjoying the midmorning sun. He wore slacks, a cream-colored button-down, and a yarmulke, Bierman remembers.After a moment, Moskowitz rose and walked slowly across the courtyard. As Cherna followed a few paces behind, he sang an old Hebrew song, sun on his face, and clapped his hands.

Melanie Lidman and Gil Kezwer contributed reporting from Jerusalem. Ali Stack contributed research.

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@Zayd Awadallah South Florida Millionaire Irving Moskowitz's Millions Thwart Middle East Peace

By Terrence McCoy


Anyone who thinks that but for settlements the Palestinians would be in love and peace with Israel must also still believe in the Easter Bunny, that Santa Clause still exists, and that Google is closing Youtube today.

smdrpepper topcommenter

Is there any wonder why the Arab world hates the West so much?  If you want peace in the Middle East, people like this need to stop funding the hatred.  He is no better than the Nazis.